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I made an earlier post about Pitchwars 2014…and now for some fun things that happen during the time leading up to submissions. One of those fun things is Pimp My Bio. So, here is my little bio for Pitchwars 2014, in the form of a Q&A with my MCs, Jimmy and Jacoby Mortensen.

1. What possessed you to tell our story? It’s ugly, it’s dark, and it’s super depressing.

A: Because you have an interesting story. Yes, it’s dark and ugly and super depressing, but it’s a story that needs to be told. There are so many books about coming out or the stereotypical gay couple and I wanted to tell a different story. Your story is not about coming out, it’s about Jimmy’s struggles with addiction, mental illness and self-identity. And it’s a story about how Jacoby tried to save him.

Dr. Who

2. But what will make people want to read our story?

A: All those things I just talked about. You have a fascinating story and it’s that aspect that will make people want to read this book. You guys don’t hold back and people get to see how raw your story is. You don’t sugar-coat anything.

3. But we’re a little shy about our story coming out. What makes you qualified to tell it?

A: Uhm…you asked me to tell it? *thought that was obvious*

Dr. Who

4. Okay, fine. Then why should people keep reading? No one outside of a fifty mile radius of Omaha probably knows where Mondamin, Iowa, is. And what if we scare them away? I mean Jimmy can be kind of scary, ya know?

A: I don’t think it matters if they don’t know where Mondamin is. And if you scare them away, well the, that’s their problem, right? And that’s not a very nice thing to say about your husband.

Mondamin, Iowa

5. My turn for some questions. Okay, so I’m a little, uhm, psycho in this book. I do some Very Bad Things. So…does that endear people to me? (Jacoby snorts, trying not to laugh) Hey!

A: Guys, guys, calm down. Well, Jimmy, yes, you do make some very poor choices in this book. And okay, you do go a bit psycho. But…maybe people will have sympathy for you. And Jacoby, quit laughing!

Psycho

6. I wanna know more about you! Where ya from? What do ya do? Why are you a writer?

A: Ahh…I’m from Iowa. I’m a radio producer/dj. I write for the love of writing. Frankly, if Jimmy The Rev Sullivan hadn’t inspired me, my writing drought would be in its eighth year. Instead, he got me kick-started and I’ve been writing books ever since. I have a medical background, too, so how’s that for cool?

Jimmy The Rev Sullivan

7. Okay, so, I’m a weirdo…being gay and intersex…do you think people will like me?

A: I think so, yes. We should probably wrap this up guys.

Mic

8. Oh, but we’re having so much fun! Okay, so one more question: how shiny is your first chapter, exactly?

A: You’re gonna need shades, my friend.

Shades 1

Thanks to Jimmy and Jacoby for the interview. And hopefully, Rescue Me gets eyes on it =).

Dancing Rev

It’s that time once again: Pitchwars 2014! If you don’t know what that is, click the link! If you do know, click the link to check out the mentors this year.

Something that impressed me this year was the number of mentors available for adult writers! In years past, there have always been a lack of adult mentors, but this year, it’s actually difficult to narrow down my picks. The hashtag #PitchWars on Twitter is teaming with posts, writers asking mentors questions, and a great sense of community.

I’m hoping to be one of the lucky ones chosen this year for Pitchwars. I know that Rescue Me is a good book (okay I wrote it, but still), and I hope to get it before an agent and maybe even get it an agent. If not that, at least a small press. My boys are hard to love but with some patience, people come to love them. I’ve been giving my pages a good shining up and they almost squeak!

If you’re entering Pitchwars this year, good luck! And if you’re still polishing and won’t be ready in time, don’t fret. Better to wait a year than to rush in without being polished and ready! And if you see Rescue Me, cross your fingers for my boys!

First off, my apologies for going two months with no posts! I’ll blame finishing my second college degree while working two jobs =).

Now, to the topic at hand: Editing and Critique Partners.

When I first started writing as a child, I think my mom read over my stuff for glaring errors and we called it good. Hey, it got me first place and $5 in the church essay contest in second grade! =) But over the years, of course, I’ve sought out tougher opinions of my work. It wasn’t until I joined http://www.agentqueryconnect.com that I became aware of critique partners or that I would want or need one. I worked on my initial book, the one I planned to query first, on my own. I had some friends read bits and pieces, but they were all busy and didn’t have time to dedicate to my writing. That’s completely understandable and I don’t hold that against them.

Then I learned about critique partners. Then, that first book bombed to the point I shelved it until further notice. I started editing/re-writing my other series, my LGBT series that’s set in small town Iowa. I felt it was ready, so did the query critiques, etc., and then sent out some tests. I got a partial right away and was so delighted! But, it got rejected. So, back to the drawing board I went. I used various fora on AQC to get critiques and overall, it was decided that my opening sucked.

So, I sought out a critique partner. We traded chapters until both books were polished. I worked hard on the suggestions and tried again.

It bombed.

So, I’m going to seek out another CP in the future. Currently, I’ve done some page and chapter swaps to tighten things. Most recently, I did a three chapter swap and got some great suggestions. I’m still tweaking the opening, but every time I get eyes on it, something comes from it that’s helpful.

The point of all this rambling is that you can never have too many eyes on your work. Of course, at some point, you have to decide for yourself if any further suggestions will help or hurt. And you don’t have to take all the suggestions you get. Consider them carefully, but make sure you maintain your voice. Either way, try to find objective eyes for your work. It helps if the person hasn’t read your work yet, so they’re 100% objective. By all means, give them a short synopsis, but let them see the work with fresh eyes.

Once you’ve had a CP and worked hard, get another one. Eventually, you’ll want a beta reader. This is one step I skipped and I think it’s time to rectify that. Having objective eyes can help you see if that polished draft really is ready or not. And remember: your ms might be 100% ready and still tank in the slush. It’s so cliche, but it’s so true: this business is subjective. Not everyone is going to love your story. But if you get a CP and a beta, you’re on the right path.

Happy writing!

The second half of the PitchSlam contest has concluded. I got good feedback on my first 250 words, and it addressed something I was worried about: people not understanding that the MCs were employees of the hospital, not patients. I’ll post my first 250 with the feedback I received. Feel free to leave a comment (good, bad, or ugly!). I’ll be heading into revisions over the weekend, no doubt, but want to let the feedback simmer for a little bit so I come at things with fresh eyes.

First 250 Words of Rescue Me (LGBT Contemp. Romance):

Glancing across the emergency room, I watched my husband’s right arm twitch. He’d been an abuser of anything he could get his hands on back in the day, and suffered nerve damage in his right arm as a result. When he first started here as a basic level EMT, no one thought he’d last a month. He was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic; Creighton took a chance on him because he needed a job to meet the requirements of probation.

“Earth to Jacoby.”

I glanced up at Hollister, my fellow EMT, friend and co-worker, as she settled into a chair beside me. Frowning, I returned my attention to Jimmy. He was dressed in his blue flight suit, ready to hop into Creighton One at any time. Creighton One was our flagship medical chopper and Jimmy’s pride and joy. He was animated, talking about something or another with fellow paramedic Anthony. Growling when Hollister tapped my shoulder, I shot her a dark look. “What?”

“Back off, Captain Grumpy Pants. We’ve gotta get our rig cleaned out before the next call. Stop ogling your man and let’s go.”

“I’m not ogling him, I’m watching him. He’s not acting right.”

“Whatever, Mortensen. Let’s get this over with.”

I reluctantly followed her out into the cold ambulance garage. Being an EMT was fun until it was time to clean the rigs. Besides, it took me away from Jimmy and I needed to keep an eye on him.

Feedback:

There are too many characters introduced in the first 250. It’s jarring and difficult to follow. Is there a way to work the backstory into action/dialogue as opposed to exposition? Doing so will make the narrative stronger and help it to stand out from the pack. Also, a lot of dialogue at the very beginning doesn’t give the reader a chance to immerse themselves in what you’ve built, they have to immediately try and keep up with who’s talking, what they’re talking about, and why. The lack of dialogue tags only adds to that problem. Focus on the here and now. We imagine someone sitting in the ER watching their ill loved one wouldn’t be thinking about coworkers, living arrangements, how everyone knows one another, and jumpsuits.

Revised 250:

Glancing across the emergency room, I watched my husband’s right arm twitch. He’d been an abuser of anything he could get his hands on back in the day and suffered nerve damage as a result. When he first started at Creighton University Hospital, no one thought he’d last a month. He was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic; Creighton took a chance on him because he needed a job to meet probation requirements.

In retrospect, I wasn’t sure why they took a chance on him. He wasn’t stable and he was at risk of losing the job more times than I can count. Still, he once he got clean and sober for the fourth time five years ago, he’d managed to stay that way. Granted, it took a cocktail of psych meds, but stability was stability in my mind.

Watching him, I was starting to think that cocktail had failed him. He’d been argumentative lately, paranoid, all signs that he’s off his meds again. Shaking my head, I dismissed the thought. We just had his meds evaluated and his doctor made no changes.

Then again, his right arm trembling like the San Andreas fault didn’t bode well for him being on his meds. Maybe he missed his tremor medication this morning. And his anxiety meds. I’d have to check when we got home tonight.

“Earth to Jacoby.”

I glanced at Hollister Macintosh, my friend and co-worker as she settled into a chair beside me. Frowning, I returned my attention to Jimmy.

I am participating in PitchSlam a different kind of writing contest.  In this one, you submit your 35 word pitch, receive feedback, then your first 250, receive feedback, revise and submit and entire thing in the final round.  I’m posting this here so that I can help others with their pitches and they can help me with mine =)

Full Query:

Jacoby Mortensen married a guy who should be dead.

Being a primary caregiver is always tough, but when you’re also married to someone who should be dead, it can truly become unbearable. Jacoby Mortensen knows this first hand but lately, it’s been more of a challenge than ever.

Jacoby sometimes imagined how he’d meet his future spouse. But half-dead in a seedy back alley in Council Bluffs, Iowa, never once crossed his mind.  Getting attached to a seventeen-year-old John Doe went against every rule of paramedics. But the longer Jacoby sat at Jimmy’s bed side, the more attached he grew and they were married a year later.  No matter how many times Jimmy ran away, back to the drugs and the streets, Jacoby was at home, waiting for him. He took his vows seriously and, if that meant combing the streets trying to bring his husband home, so be it.  But when Jimmy goes off his meds again, Jacoby doesn’t think he’s strong enough to make the marriage work anymore.  Once he’s released from the psych ward, Jimmy promises to stay on his meds, but Jacoby doesn’t believe him.

Jimmy refuses to take care of himself and Jacoby is going slowly insane.  Jacoby sees it as his duty to keep his husband clean and sober.  Then, Jimmy goes behind Jacoby’s back and takes a job out in California. Jacoby doesn’t want to leave Iowa and start over.  But with Jimmy and his ex getting dangerously close to each other, Jacoby has to decide how much Jimmy means to him—and to what lengths he’ll go to keep the marriage together.

RESCUE ME is contemporary LGBT romance complete at 85,000 words.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

PitchSlam Pitch:

Jacoby knew when he married Jimmy life was going to be rough–Jimmy was a drug addict and alcoholic.  Then Jimmy goes off his psych meds…and Jacoby just might have to kill him.  

PitchSlam Feedback:

After reading your entry, we’ve found you could strengthen your pitch by addressing the following issues:

We feel you’re missing an opportunity to show the strength of their story. There seems to be grit, perhaps angst, and a lot of tension that you’re hinting at, but these things aren’t coming through clearly.

Suggestion: start with the basic format for a strong pitch & personalize it from there. When [x] happens, [MC] must [y] or else [z]. Fill in the blanks with the core elements which make your story unique. Show why a reader should care about this struggle between Jacoby & Jimmy. Choose STRONG verbs.

YA Paranormal Romance

With school nearing it’s end and graduation looming, this has been a busy semester. Reading time has been scarce, but lately, I’ve been digging out part of my days to read. I started Evade ages ago and finally finished it tonight.

 

Evade is part of the Ever trilogy. I reviewed Ever a while back on my blog, and it’s a must read!  The story follows Ever, Toby, and various friends and extended family on a journey that will suck you and won’t let go. Evade is the second book in this trilogy and I can’t wait for the final installment of this amazing series!

 

Now, on to Evade!

 

Evade picks up where Ever left off.  The reader follows Ever as she tries to live a normal life, off on a vacation to Mexico before starting college in the fall.  Naturally, nothing is easy for this girl, and she runs into her least favorite person while trying to have fun. She is then kidnapped by an unknown gang who want her soul.  She eventually ends up back home with her family, but the worst is yet to come.  The reader learns, along with Ever, things about the family and Ever’s past that will boggle the mind.  With this news out in the open, the real adventure begins. 

 

Evade takes the reader from California all the way to Seattle before leaving the book on a cliffhanger that will leave you pleading with the author for more.  I very much enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the third and final installment of this magnificent series. Jessa’s strength is that the reader can guess all they want what’s going on…but you’ll always be surprised.  It would be easy to give the reader the obvious but Jessa doesn’t do that.  Instead, she keeps you guessing as you read.  The MC, Ever, is also not your typical damsel in distress.  She finally takes matters into her own hand and the reader is left to guess if Ever did the right thing or not.  No ‘save me! rescue me!’ from that girl!  And while the book is technically YA, the characters are all mature and don’t come off as childish or typical in any way, shape, or form. Jessa has a definite talent as a writer and you will be swept away as soon as you crack the first page of her books.

 

5 of 5 stars to Jess Russo and Evade!

My relationship with e-books has been rocky at best. I loathed them for years, seeing them as the enemy. Everyone was talking about the demise of book stores and the death of the physical book. I stayed as far away from e-books as possible, putting them down every chance I got.

Then, I lost a copy of a book. I knew it would resurface, they always do. But I wanted to finish reading it. On a whim, one lazy Sunday afternoon, I flipped through my phone and enabled the Kindle app. I felt a bit dirty, honestly, wondering what the hell I was doing. Why would I, an e-book hater, be looking at the Kindle app? The one I had disabled specifically so it wouldn’t update itself anymore. But there, I was, looking at Kindle on my phone.

wpid-mntsdcardCaptured-Images2014-03-06-15.22.48.png.png

I challenged myself: see how it is. Keeping in mind that I’m reading on a somewhat small screen, I opened a sample of a book. I read the entire chapter in no time flat. It seems it didn’t matter what I was reading on, only that I was reading. It wasn’t bad either. My phone has a small screen, but I could read just fine. I started researching actual e-book readers. I checked one out from our public library. I liked it. Me, the girl who hated the blasted things. I liked it. So, I took the plunge and ordered a Kindle Paperwhite.

We’ll see how things go over the next thirty days. I haven’t really been able to play with it much, since it arrived here at work. But the little I’ve done hasn’t been bad. It’s easy to use. It’s easy to read on. I’ve got thirty days to decide if I like it or hate it. I’ll report back.

I’ll be one of many writers to say this: I didn’t think my dream of being published would ever come true. We all think that, on some level. No matter how hard we study writing, how much effort we put into editing, writing, revising, querying, etc., we all fear it’s for naught.

Last year, I submitted a well-edited short story to Elephants Bookshelf Press. The theme for their upcoming winter anthology was regret and I had a story I felt would be a perfect fit. With the help of CPs from AQC, I sent in my story. The waiting was tough, as it always is. Then, I got to work one day and spotted an email from the company. I opened it to read what I thought was a rejection.

I squealed.

I’d gotten in! My story had been accepted and would be published in 2014! I couldn’t believe it and told each and every person I knew as fast as I possibly could. I even managed to startle a co-worker through a soundproof wall when I squealed.

I waited a few weeks and finally, it was my turn in the cue for the copy editor. We made a few changes and I sent the document back. A few more weeks went by and I got the final edits. Today, as I posted earlier, we got the cover reveal. The cover is beautiful and now we’re just waiting for the book to publish.

One of my favorite musicians once said “The most important thing you can ever do is follow your dreams.”. He’s been dead now almost five years but those words ring in my head every time I open a document to edit or write. I credit Jimmy Sullivan with inspiring me to start writing again. I intend to continue following my dreams of being a writer, no matter how long the journey may be.

Don’t ever give up if you want to do something. Keep truckin’ because eventually, someone will see you and say “let’s work together”!

Cover Reveal: Winter's Regret

An anthology of stories of regret, publishing February 2014. I am featured in this with a story titled “Anguish”, the story of a mother and father longing to fix the mistake they made years ago when they threw their addicted son to the streets.

Calling all writers! The 2013 Baker’s Dozen Auction is right around the corner! This is your chance to get your writing in front of agents, get feedback on your words and much more. Check out MSFV's blog for details. And be sure to read the success stories of previous participants. Good luck!

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